The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

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The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

What Will You Be Remembered By?

Frani O’Toole

        Last Friday, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in promoting women’s education. She is 17. Three days after the Nobel Peace Prize announcement, Joshua Wong, leader of the Hong Kong protests, celebrated his 18th birthday. Both would have been members of the class of 2015.

        Time magazine recently published this year’s list of the 25 most influential teenagers. “Teens today might have a mixed reputation” begins the October 13th article, “but there’s no denying their influence.” In making this list, Time is among the first to document our age group’s contribution to the world. And, in that way, the article becomes more about posterity than it is about “time.”

        Many of names on the list are easily recognizable: Sasha and Malia Obama, Lorde, Malala, Joshua Wong, Kendall and Kylie Jenner. Others are less so: three Irish seventeen-year-olds who discovered a new bacteria, or Flynn McGary, a celebrity chef. 13 on the list are entertainers. Of the remaining 12, three are athletes, four are activists, and the rest have created some sort of product (a publication, a company). Note that there are no writers or visual artists. Entrepreneurs, also, aren’t strongly represented in this list. Of the teenagers who owe their success to technology, most have to do with social media. The lack of app-creators is surprising; tech appears to be field that is age-negligent, and it seems like one that teenagers, as internet natives, should be performing strongly in. Nick D’Alioso, for example, became the richest teen in the world after selling his app Summly to Yahoo for $30 million. D’Alioso, nonetheless, is excluded from the list.

        It’s also interesting that most of the people on this list derive their success from helping or speaking to other young people. Malala advocates for youth education, Joshua Wong is supported by a movement of students, and all the entertainers on the list are viewed as popular among teenage audiences. There’s something unifying about that fact; our generation can support each another, and we can come together to make an impact. But it also suggests that our influence is still limited to people our age; our accomplishments are still considered in a category of their own, not taken in the way same way as an adult’s might be.

        Looking at this list, should we have pride in the names that represent our generation? Malala and Joshua Wong, certainly. But Nash Grier, a Vine star known for making homophobic slurs and degrading comments about women? Should we, as a generation, take ownership over this list?

        As Malala was announced as the recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, there was a lot of talk about comparing accomplishments. Looking at Malala, of course our successes look insignificant. On the one hand, that’s not entirely bad—that perspective can be healthy, and it can act as a motivator. On the other hand, it’s a false comparison—we should be allowed to still think in terms of potential rather than in tangible results. And having a narrow goal isn’t necessarily an unworthy one: the impact we make on Latin, as the class of 2015 or 2016 or 2017 or 2018, is still valuable in its own right.

        Maybe we should also stop looking at this list and thinking about the individuals on it. It should be about how we act as a group, as a generation. And maybe our goals shouldn’t be to one day make these Time lists. Because maybe it’s less about what each of us is going to remembered by. It’s about what we are going to be remembered by.

        Below is the list (numbered by age). What are your thoughts on it?

1. Mo’ne Davis (13)—athlete

2. Sasha Obama (13) and Malia Obama (16)

3. Kiernan Shipka (14)—actress

4. Jazz Jennings (14)—transgender activist

5. Flynn McGarry (15)—chef

6. Erik Finkman (15)—founder of

7. Rico Rodriquez (16)—actor

8. Nash Grier (16)—social media star

9. Ciara Judge (16), Émer Hickey (17), and Sophie Healy-Thow (17)—scientists

10.  Shawn Mendes (16)—social media star

11.  Jayden Smith (16) —actor

12.  Becky G (16)—singer

13.  Salma Kakar (17)—athlete

14.  Lorde (17)—singer

15.  Lydia Ko (17)—athlete

16.  Chloe Grace Mortez (17)—actress

17.  Malala Yousafzai (17)—activist

18.  Kylie and Kendall Jenner (17 & 18)—reality tv stars

19.  Joshua Wong (18)—activist

20.  Rachel Fox (18)—actress

21.  Bethany Mota (18)—fashion blogger

22.  Tavi Genvinson (18)—founder of Rookie

23.  Austin Mahone (18)—singer

24.  Troye Sivan (19)—musician

25.  Megan Grassell (19)—founder of Yellowberry


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What Will You Be Remembered By?